A legislative delegation from Addison County is responding to the town of Monkton’s opposition to the proposed route for a natural gas pipeline extension.
The South Burlington-based Vermont Gas Systems wants to add 42 miles of new pipeline from Colchester to Addison County. The route would also serve International Paper in Ticonderoga, N.Y.
But the proposal has already met stiff opposition from residents upset that it might run through their front lawns. They prefer that the pipeline follow an existing utility line, instead.
Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, says legislators will work to make sure that Vermont Gas is held accountable for its extension plans.
"We think it’s perfectly reasonable to not go through somebody’s front yard in Monkton," Ayer said.
Still, she says lawmakers from Addison County are largely supportive of the project that would bring natural gas to Middlebury by 2014. "As a delegation, we think there are enough advantages to the state of Vermont – to all of Vermont – in terms of jobs and the economy that we really need to look at this instead of just digging in our heals."
Addison County Representative David Sharpe, who represents Bristol and Monkton, says he’ll fight hard to make sure the pipeline does not go down its current proposed route along Monkton town roads.
"There are environmental concerns that are legitimate surrounding the building of this pipeline," Sharpe says. "But the bigger picture is that it’s a whole lot cleaner to burn natural gas than it is to burn fuel oil or the gunk they’re burning at International Paper."
At a public hearing in Monkton Thursday night, Vermont Gas CEO Don Gilbert said his company is open to changing the pipeline’s route. He apologized for what some have called a lack of transparency, and he offered to let a Monkton resident sit on a team that will reevaluate the project.